Suffice it to say that no one recommends putting treasured photographs – or anything of value, really – into raging floodwaters, filled as they are with whatever has been swept along in the current.
But many of the photographs spread out on tables in a workshop at the Winterthur Museum Research Building this month went through that kind of abuse during deadly flash floods that swept homes off their foundations, damaged bridges and roads, and cut a swath of destruction throughout Texas and Oklahoma during the 2015 Memorial Day weekend.
Looking good and doing good.
A new partnership between the Mt. Cuba Center and UD's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources strives to find varieties of native plants that will charm the customer and benefit the environment.
A $4 million gift from University of Delaware alumnus William Severns Jr. and his wife Jacqueline will support faculty recruitment and retention in chemical and biomolecular engineering.
Student Life mentoring.
Dive In: Diversity Institute.
The photographs arrived at Winterthur for treatment by graduate students in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, under the expert guidance of Debra Hess Norris, Unidel Henry Francis du Pont Chair in Fine Arts and chair of UD's Department of Art Conservation. The competitive program is one of only four such programs in the nation.
All of the photographs had been rescued from the disaster that emerged in central Texas on May 24. About a foot of rain had fallen into the Blanco River watershed during the overnight hours Saturday into Sunday, and that rain followed a week of heavy downpours. The Blanco rose more than 27 feet above flood level, reaching heights upwards of 40 feet at Wimberley, Texas, before the gauge gave way.
Lives were lost as that sudden wall of water came through, including eight people who were in a house that was swept into the Blanco, hit a bridge and was destroyed.
Those losses are unfathomable and irretrievable.
But some treasures can be salvaged, and as recovery efforts began, Carolyn Manning, director of the Wimberley Village Library, invited people to bring whatever photographs they found in the floodwaters or debris to the library, where they would be spread out to dry and the rightful owners might be reconnected to their pictures.
Word spread quickly on Facebook and other social media networks and about 8,000 photographs arrived, Manning said. The library staff cleared out a room to spread them out on tables and on the floor where they could dry.
The University of Texas' School of Information in Austin offered preservation assistance and, along with the Archivists of Central Texas, later held community workshops to help people learn how to salvage the items. Volunteers helped to catalogue the photographs.
And 275 of those photographs were shipped to Norris and the first-year graduate students who were in a three-week photograph conservation class she teaches at Winterthur each January.
Last year, Norris' students taking the same class helped to stabilize and preserve a trove of family photographs damaged in a Christmas night blaze that killed a woman and her three grandsons in rural Ohio.
Flood damage is much different than fire damage, and both present enormous challenges. Special handling and equipment and a thorough understanding of the chemistry and materials involved are required to develop effective protocols. Norris has special expertise in disaster response and her work has received international acclaim.
Some of the photographs that showed up in Wimberley date to the 19th century, when egg whites were used to produce a photographic print. Others arrived in critical condition, split or scratched or so caked with mud and leaves it was impossible to know if any image remained beneath the surface.
How they made it to those tables at Winterthur from the raging river is anyone’s guess. But they all belong to someone, still bear the stories that someone knows, and Norris and her students are working to clean the surfaces and stabilize them to prevent further deterioration. That will allow some to be digitized.
"Nowadays, we have digital copies," Manning said, "but when you have paper copies and you're losing pictures of weddings and babies and all sorts of things – the people whose photos we did find here were so grateful. It made people feel good that though there was still so much upheaval they could at least find something that they could hold onto."
Digital imagery is not as peril-free as some believe, said Amy Bowman, a photograph archivist at the University of Texas who has worked closely with the Wimberley community.
"We had a man who came into the library," she said. "He had gathered photos from his family – lots of prints – and was in the process of digitizing everything. But his hard drive went down the river and was lost. The prints were what were found and he was coming into the library to pick them up."
The University of Texas instructors who led the Wimberley project – Karen Pavelka and Rebecca Elder – worked with Norris, whose conservation work is recognized around the world, to send a collection of especially damaged images to Winterthur for careful examination and stabilization.
Norris' students are in their first year of a graduate program that prepares them for work in all sorts of object conservation fields – furniture, textiles, photographs, paintings and many others. One undergraduate, Laura Mosco of New Hyde Park, New York, who is studying art conservation and art history, also has been part of the project.
The work has special meaning for two of the grad students, who knew Wimberley and its swimming holes and markets well and had family or friends who lived there.
They knew immediately the significance of the "bluebonnet" photograph that was among those shipped to Winterthur, for example. This one showed a young boy in the middle of a huge field of flowers. But these aren't just any flowers, said Diana Hartman of Arlington, Texas.
"It's the iconic bluebonnet photo," said Hartman. "It's something every parent in Texas makes every kid do."
Hartman had one taken and so did classmate Claire Taggart of California, who lived in Marfa, Texas, for a while and said parents will pull to the side of dangerous roadways if they spot a good place to take a bluebonnet photo.
Ellen Nigro of Hockessin, Delaware, had a photograph of a high school band in front of her, taken at the 11th annual Six Flags Over Texas Band Festival.
Such items are treasures and Hartman helped to spread the word in Wimberley that many photographs could be salvaged.
"I have been lucky enough to have studied disaster situations with Debbie in the past, so I've seen what could be done," she said. "I knew we could do something – and they belong to someone, so they're very important."
Preservation education, application
Working to help others learn how to care for photograph collections is important to Norris and her students and can help to prevent damage in future disasters.
"We treasure our heirlooms," said Kelsey Wingel of Hockessin, as she gently cleaned the surface of a photograph to remove embedded grime and mud. "To be part of this work is a personal and wonderful experience."
And it allows students to apply the concepts they have learned in class to a real-world problem.
Jackie Peterson of Syracuse, New York, plans to specialize in textile conservation. The work with photographs broadens her understanding of the tools and techniques needed to address fragile items. She worked with soft hake brushes, cotton swabs and ethanol mixtures to remove surface dirt. But a lot of the dirt was sandy, she said, and extra care was required to prevent scratching the images.
The skills learned in Norris' classes have been exported around the globe, as a map outside the workshop shows. That's because the program draws students from around the world who have demonstrated skills and want to study conservation at this high-level.
Ersang Ma, who grew up in Shanghai, China, and graduated from New York University in New York City, said she wants to do meaningful work and contribute something to the greater good. She considers conservation as part of that and sees print photographs as a kind of archaeological format that will be important to future generations, who might otherwise have access only to those captured digitally.
"Every family has photographs – it's what we connect with," she said. "They're kind of magical. It's a still image but you think about what happened around the time the photograph was taken."
Efforts to rescue damaged items are not prevalent in China, Ma said, but she hopes to be part of developing a preservation project there.
Mina Porell of Sofia, Bulgaria, said not all of the photographs can be saved, but it is worthwhile to save those that can be saved. As she looked at one image – a photograph of three young siblings – she thought of her own sons, ages 4 and 8. Another captured her because of the wistful look on a young bride's face.
"This hits home," she said. "I have children. And this [wedding] photo, when thinking of my own wedding, is one I would like to have."
Water damage can affect the dyes and substrates of photographs, problems that are further complicated if photos get stuck together and their elements intermingle. Conservators must discern whether the changes can be reversed or minimized, and must decide on the best way to approach them.
The work is exacting and students worked evenings and weekends to address as many photographs as possible before Norris' class ends Jan. 20.
The mission to educate the public on how to conserve and protect such family treasures will continue and Norris is willing to consult as need arises.
"It's so important for the public to know that these materials – however damaged – can be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations," she said. "The results have been pretty remarkable."
Such work contributes to cultural understanding, reconciliation, sustainability, and building mutual respect, she said.
And in Wimberley, it helps to soothe some of the pain.
"Tell all of them thank you," Manning, the library director there, said. "Whoever's pictures those are, I'm sure will be very grateful."
Norris can be reached for referrals or consultation requests at email@example.com.
Article by Beth Miller
Photos by Evan Krape
Video by Ashley Barnas.
Art Trembanis says mapping studies are vital to manage national park resources.
Marine scientists from throughout the region gathered at UD to share preliminary findings of a Superstorm Sandy mapping project.
Marine scientists from throughout the region gathered at UD to share preliminary findings of a Superstorm Sandy mapping project.
Hurricane mapping workshop.
UD works with National Park Service on Superstorm Sandy mapping study.
11:38 a.m., March 18, 2016--Marine scientists involved in a Superstorm Sandy mapping project came together on University of Delaware’s Newark campus earlier this month to share preliminary findings about the storm’s effect on coastal and marine habitats.
The research was funded by the National Park Service and included field work at four locations along the East Coast over the last year:
Hurricane mapping workshop.
Superstorm Sandy mapping teams presented their early findings to the National Park Service at a workshop held on UD's Newark campus March 3.
A team led by Ajay Prasad in the University of Delaware's Center for Fuel Cell Research is partnering with Delaware startup Xergy on an innovative refrigeration system based on electrochemical compression.
ECE Research Day.
Offshore wind in Massachusetts.
Cape Cod National Seashore, by the Center for Coastal Studies in Massachusetts;.
Fire Island National Seashore, by the University of Rhode Island;.
Assateague Island National Seashore, by the University of Delaware; and.
Gateway National Recreation Area, by Rutgers University..
The daylong workshop, hosted by professors Art Trembanis and Doug Miller in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), enabled colleagues to share field work accomplishments and future plans, as well as discuss challenges associated with the work.
Mohsen Badiey, acting dean of CEOE, welcomed the participants to campus and thanked them for their continued collaboration.
“This is a new and promising area of research for our university, and we look forward to continued collaborations so we can be prepared to address future problems that might occur,” he said.
About the workshop
In October 2012, winds from Hurricane Sandy reached up to 90 miles per hour, tearing through the East Coast and resulting in over $70 billion dollars of damages to cities, towns and homes.
Areas within miles of Delaware like the Jersey Shore, Fire Island and Assateague Island in Maryland were among those affected. Significant erosion, overwash and coastal flooding were encountered in Delaware along both the Atlantic and Delaware Bay shorelines.
Though the visible damage was apparent, underneath the water’s surface, the bay and ocean seafloor and the organisms that live there were also severely affected.
Understanding how animals, plants or other organisms that live on the seafloor were affected by or recovered from the superstorm is key to predicting or anticipating effects in the future.
According to Trembanis, these studies are particularly valuable to the National Park Service in its mission of stewardship for our national parks.
“In order to manage the park resources it is critical to have both baseline and storm impact change maps of the extensive marine sector of the coastal parks. These studies have provided some of the first ever inventory of the biological and geological features in these parks,” said Trembanis, an associate professor of oceanography in the School of Marine Science and Policy.
In their mapping studies, diverse teams of scientists, graduate students, undergraduates and summer interns used side-scan and bathymetric sonar, a system used to detect objects on the seafloor, to observe the morphology and biology of the ocean or bay seafloor of their particular marine environment.
The teams also examined and classified the organisms within the different marine environments they studied. For example, side-scan imagery and photographs showed that the bay side waters contained more diverse species than the ocean side waters in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Some data even revealed interesting findings, such as mussel beds, sea grass and new, unidentifiable species that were not previously present.
Following the research presentations, Mark Finkbeiner from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office for Coastal Management walked workshop participants through ways to incorporate the Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS) into their mapping studies.
CMECS is a complex framework for organizing information about coastal and ocean habitats. It helps researchers cross-reference data about previous storms and also enhances future research by providing recommendations for future projects.
Having an archived history of storms of this magnitude can help scientists to better predict the impacts that may be expected with future storms in a time of rising sea level and climate change.
"Everyone knows the extent storms impact the coast, but rigorous scientific data are remarkably rare. We need to make the most of every opportunity to collect and synthesize data, and to share it within the scientific community and the affected communities," said Miller, also an associate professor of oceanography in CEOE.
Article by Laura Bilash
Photos by Evan Krape.
Excavations show the role early humans played in forming the tree islands that dot the river of grass.
Dotting the landscape of Everglades National Park are teardrop-shaped elevations of hardwood trees (or hammocks) named, “tree islands.” The significance of tree islands as the only dry ground has long been acknowledged, but their significance also lies beneath the earth, as archeological findings from a dig in 2010 present data that prehistoric humans played a significant role in the formation of tree islands, and in turn, the archeological discoveries should be considered in current Everglades restoration models.
“Tree islands are the nucleus of the Everglades,” said Traci Ardren, chair and professor of anthropology at the University of Miami’s College of Arts and Sciences. “They are rich habitats for plants, birds, and other animals and provide higher ground and stability for the Everglades drainage system.”
Ardren says Everglades restoration models used by scientists and government entities do not take human factors into account, specifically prehistoric human occupation.
“This research provides an example of how humans were involved in the way tree islands were formed, so if we want to have the best models we can for Everglades restoration, we need first to understand the original formation of tree islands,” she said.
Ardren’s research, entitled “Prehistoric human impact on tree island lifecycles in the Florida Everglades,” was published in the journal The Holocene and illustrates the archeological discoveries from a tree island known as the Booth site. There are currently hundreds of archeological sites in the Everglades, and almost every tree island has evidence of prehistoric human occupation; unfortunately, most tree islands have not been archeologically investigated.
In 1998, a team visited the Booth site and uncovered archeological artifacts of pre-Columbian human occupation, but according to Ardren, the research was minimal. When she and her team visited the site in 2010, there was extensive digging and richer analysis of the findings. “The activities on the site were not that different from the 1998 visit, but it was more about the conclusions we drew from the data collected,” she added.
Overall, archeological research in the Everglades is very minimal due to the belief that the terrain is very challenging; these perceptions may contribute to the lack of archeological research and excavation.
“We do not think of the Everglades as a place where there were people living for thousands of years,” Ardren explains.
“Tree islands in the Everglades certainly present a nutrient anomaly in the otherwise oligotrophic wetland. Currently, there are three major hypotheses explaining this nutrient enrichment: nutrient enrichment via plant transpiration; bird guano as birds nest in the islands; and pre-Columbian human occupation,” said Cooper Fellow and Professor of Biology Leonel Sternberg. “Indeed, there is evidence for all three factors and Dr. Ardren’s research points out that these hypotheses are not mutually exclusive, and they all could be part of the explanation why tree islands are nutrient sinks.”
Ardren says the main point of her research is to contribute quantifiable data on the human influence in tree island formation, which is a major factor ignored in most Everglades restoration research and models. She hopes her research will generate discussion among scientists today who are working on Everglades restoration in many disciplines with the outcome to collaborate and take into account the human impact on the landscape, not just in the 21st century but thousands of years into the past.
Badger State Maps Put TIGER in the Tank
Normal Weather Drives Salt Marsh Erosion
Carbon in Water must be Accounted for in Projections of Future Climate
Landsat 5 Experiences Malfunction (Updated)Released: 8/24/2009 11:28:24 AM
Contact Information:U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey Office of Communication 119 National Center Reston, VA 20192.
Kristi Kline Phone: 605-594-2585 Ron Beck Phone: 605-594-6550 .
Update, 8/17/2009. Landsat 5 tumbled out of control in the early morning of August 13. Full operational capabilities restored. The cause of the malfunction is still being investigated.
Satellite is Now Stabilized and the Cause is Being Investigated
Landsat 5 tumbled out of control and power was at a critical level in the early morning of August 13.
The cause for this anomaly is currently unknown and being investigated.
The spacecraft has been stabilized after the USGS Landsat Flight Operations Team initiated recovery operations. Power is still at a critical level, and the extent of damage is yet to be determined. Imaging operations are suspended until further notice.
“Landsat 5 has proven to be a remarkable success and has given the science community important information on land features of the planet,” said USGS Landsat Program manager Kristi Kline. “It was launched in 1984 and designed to last 3 years with a possible extension to five years. Incredibly it is still a valuable resource and by early 2009, it had completed over 129,000 orbits and acquired over 700,000 individual scenes.”
Landsat 5 provided data demonstrating alterations over Chernobyl region after the nuclear power plant eruption, de-forestation of tropical rain forests, drought and flooding in the Mississippi River basin, construction of the Three Gorges dam in China, shrinking of the Aral Sea, Northern Wisconsin after a tornado pass, the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and countless forest and wildfire outbreaks.
For more information about Landsat 5 and others in the Landsat series, visit the Landsat Missions Web site.